[Advaita-l] Rudra and Vishnu are mere functionaries

V Subrahmanian via Advaita-l advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Mon Jun 23 11:13:53 CDT 2014

At the beginning of the bhashyam for the Prashnopanishat 2nd chapter,
Shankara says;

प्राणोऽत्ता प्रजापतिरित्युक्तम् । तस्य प्रजापतित्वमत्तृत्वं
चास्मिञ्शरीरेऽवधारयितव्यमित्ययं प्रश्न आरभ्यते ।

Prāṇa the consumer is stated to be the Prajāpati.  This, its being the
prajāpati and the consumer, is being demonstrated in this body.

In the 9th mantra of this Chapter we have:

इन्द्रस्त्वं प्राण तेजसा रुद्रोऽसि परिरक्षिता ।
त्वमन्तरिक्षे चरसि सूर्यस्त्वं ज्योतिषां पतिः ॥ ९ ॥

9     Indra thou art, O Prana, and Rudra, too, in prowess. Thou art the
Protector. Thou movest in the sky; thou art the sun, the lord of lights.

The bhāṣya says:
किंच, इन्द्रः परमेश्वरः त्वं हे प्राण, तेजसा वीर्येण रुद्रोऽसि संहरन् जगत्
। स्थितौ च परि समन्तात् रक्षिता पालयिता ; परिरक्षिता त्वमेव जगतः सौम्येन
रूपेण । त्वम् अन्तरिक्षे अजस्रं चरसि उदयास्तमयाभ्यां सूर्यः त्वमेव च
सर्वेषां ज्योतिषां पतिः ॥

Further, O Prana, you are Indra, the Supreme Lord.  By valour you are
Rudra, engaged in destroying the world.  Again, during the time of the
existence of the universe, you, in your  benign aspect, are the preserver
(of the universe) on every side.  You move for ever in the sky by rising
and setting.  You are the sun, the lord of all the luminaries.

For the above highlighted portion, Anandagiri, the authoritative
sub-commentator, says: विष्ण्वादिरूपेण इत्यरथः । ( You, through the form of
Vishnu, etc.)

Now, this upanishad itself stated that Prana is Prajapati., the Creator.
And in this mantra we have Rdura, another form of prāṇa, being stated as
the world-destroyer.  And Vishnu (the benign form, as opposed to the
valorous form of Rudra) is the Protector of the world.  Since the Creator,
Protector and Destroyer are all said to be the forms of Prana we see that
Rudra, named in the mantra itself, Vishnu not named in the mantra as well
as the bhashya but named by Anandagiri, on the implication of the word
'vishnu' are all 'created' ones.

The sequence is thus:  The PuruSha, Supreme Brahman, creates prāṇa, called
Hiraṇyagarbha.  From this Hirānyagarbha, the creator of all the objects,
names / forms, both sentient and insentient, the deva-s too are created.
The mantra that we saw above lists these.  Indra, etc. including Rudra, for
destruction function and Vishnu for protection function, are all
manifestations of this Prana (Hiranyagarbha).  While up to this it is all
within the realm of creation, the ONLY entity that transcends creation is
the Puruṣa who is the subject matter of the Sixth Praṣna, the final chapter
of this upaniṣad.

The point to be noted is: This upaniṣad provides a very interesting
instance of Rudra and Vishnu as particular functionaries, with allotted
portfolios, along with Indra, etc.  The Prana, Hiranyagarbha is the one
manifested before them and the Puruṣa is the Supreme.   This Puruṣa is
neither the Rdura or Vishnu or Hiranyagarbha (prajapati/prana).  In other
words, Rudra and Vishnu are not the Supreme Brahman in this scheme of this
upanishad.  Both these entities are within the creation.  By taking the
methods of the other upanishads, we could conclude that the Purusha, the
Supreme Brahman, NirguNa, owing to māyā association engages in creation and
first creates the Hiranyagarbha/Prana.  This, in the purāṇic  way could be
said as the Paramatman Vishnu bringing forth brahmā the four-faced one.
Having outsourced the further creation to Brahmā, Vishnu the Parabrahman
rests.  In Shaiva puranas the scheme is somewhat like this:  There is one
Supreme Shiva from whom brahma vishnu and rudra manifest to manage the
creation functions.

About the 'tejasā-vīryeṇa' and 'soumyena' usages above:

In the Bhagavadgita, chapter 11, the Lord vouchsafes Arjuna the Viṣvarūpa,
the Universal Divine Form.  At a stage Arjuna expresses his fear of viewing
the form and pleads to the Lord to return to His 'original' human form.
And the Lord obliges and Arjuna, in his thanksgiving addresses:  Having
seen this human form of Yours which is soumyam, benign, O Janardana, now I
am composed....

So, Veda Vyasa uses the word soumyam in respect of the Lord.  Also, in that
chapter itself, the cause of Arjuna's fear, is also demonstrated: the Lord
shows His world-destructive form and says: kālo'smi loka kṣayakṛt ..lokān
samhartum iha pravṛttaḥ 11.32. [I am Time, out to destroy the world..]
This is the ghora form of the Lord which the Lord Himself acknowledges as
'ghoram īdṛṅgmamedam' 11.49.  [This terrible form of Mine]

Here, we see the Prashnopanishat Rudra role  demonstrated by the Lord.  So,
we  can call this Lord 'Krishna' or Vishnu or simply Parabrahman who takes
on the roles of Rudra, Vishnu and Hiranyagarbha of the Prashnopanishat.

And The Sri Rudram itself is explained as a demonstration of both the ghora
(terrible) and a-ghora (benign) rūpam of Shiva, the Supreme.

Shankaracharya while saying 'Nārāyaṇa/Viṣṇu/Vaudeva/Īśwara (Śiva) as the
Supreme is not referring to the Rudra/Viṣṇu of the above scheme but the
Puruṣa, the one outside the creation.  And this entity 'outside creation'
can also be nirguna brahman and the māyopādhika saguna brahman.

There is a practice of assigning the three guṇas sattva, rajas and tamas to
the 'trinity' based on their function: Sattva to the protector, rajas to
the creator and tamas to the destroyer.  So, Vishnu is sattva, brahmā is
rajas and Shiva is tamas.  In the BG visvarūpa chapter we can see the
destruction function is shown by the Lord, the terrible one, ghora, as He
Himself says.  This is the tamas aspect of the Lord.  The one where He
showed all the creation within Himself is the sattva aspect.

Just as the Br.up. 1.4.11 talks about the creation of an aspect/mode of
Rudra, so too the above referenced Praṣnopaniṣat mentions the creation of
Rudra in the destroyer-function and the creation of Viṣṇu as the
protector-function according to the Śaṇkara bhāṣya as commented by


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list